You don't always know your destiny...
“This is certainly a fancy place for lunch, Kyle,” Catherine said as she slid gracefully into her seat.
I smiled as I pulled my own chair out to allow me to sit down. “True, but it should be a nice break from Carl’s Jr. in Dallas. I had to wait two weeks for a reservation.” I shook my head to indicate my dislike of having to make a reservation just for lunch. “But I’ve been wanting to try this place out for a long time. I’ve heard the food here is really good.”
Catherine momentarily rested her chin on the delicate fingers of her clasped hands and said, “Yes, the food is supposed to be wonderful. Thank you for inviting me to come with you.”
I smiled broadly and said, “Oh, you’re more than welcome!” Catherine worked a floor below me in the Business Office and since I wrote and maintained the software she used, we had a lot of opportunity to chat. I was your stereotypical tongue-tied-around-girls geek, but around Catherine, I felt very at ease. But not so much at ease as to ask her out. It took a lot of talking into my bathroom mirror before I built up the courage to ask her to lunch. Lunch is safe. I mean, she would know that I would know that she had to be back to work in a hour or so, so she would know that I would know that she would know that I wouldn’t have time to try anything.
She looked around casually and said, “This is lovely. I really love the décor.”
Before I could respond, a well-dressed young man stepped up to the table and said, “Good morning! I am Miguel and I will be your waiter today. May I get your drink order?” He turned towards Catherine with a questioning look.
She glanced at the menu for a moment, and then looked up and said, “Tea. Earl Grey.”
Miguel, whose real name was probably Ralph, smiled and said, “Excellent choice!” He then looked over at me.
I wanted to say ‘beer’, but said, “Iced tea.”
Miguel fixed a neutral expression and said, “Yes sir.” He wrote down on his pad and said before turning smartly on his heel to leave, “I’ll be back in a moment with your drinks.”
Frowning, I said, “Why did you get an ‘Excellent Choice!’ and I get a whatever?”
Looking up from the menu, Catherine said, “What? Sorry, I didn’t notice.”
Frowning again, I picked up my menu and began a quick study of it. Skimming the prices, I thought to myself that I hoped Catherine would just get a salad. At $18.50, it was the cheapest item on the menu.
I looked over the top of my menu to sneak a look at Catherine. Out of the corner of my eye, I saw what looked like someone standing by the wall, staring intently at me. When I changed my focus to look directly at him, he was gone. I just shrugged and didn’t think of it again.
A few moments later, Miguel returned with our drinks and asked to take our order. Catherine restrained herself and only got the grilled salmon, the second most expensive item on the menu. I ordered chicken-fried steak.
We stared at each other awkwardly for almost a minute before Catherine finally said, “Oh! Did you hear about Phil over in Accounting?”
I narrowed my eyes in thought as I said, “Phil…Phil…you mean that bald guy who always wears the high-water pants?”
Catherine smiled and said, “That’s the one.”
I shrugged and said, “No. I haven’t heard anything..”
“Well, they found him and a security guard, both naked in a broom closet last night. Isn’t that just crazy?” Catherine grinned with amusement.
Frowning yet again, I said, “That doesn’t really surprise me. I always took him for a limp-wristed fruit. Who found them and what’s happened to him.” As I finished talking, someone walked by, brushing my shoulder. He turned to stare at me for just a moment before continuing on his way.
Catherine looked at the table for a moment, and then said, “I heard they bumped him down to a junior accountant position and gave him some of the harder accounts to manage, saying apparently he didn’t have enough work to do. The security guard they gave a choice of being fired or quitting. I think he just quit.”
I shook my head and said, “See? That’s what’s wrong with management these days. If it had been up to me, I would have canned both those fairies on the spot.”
Catherine said, “You can’t fire someone for their sexual preference, Kyle.”
I countered by saying, “What do you think they’d do to us, if they found the both of us naked in a broom closet? They’d fire our asses, that’s what!”
A little coldly, Catherine said, “Well, we won’t be finding that out, will we?” Something told me it was going to be harder to get a second date out of Catherine.
Catherine then looked up, and pointed, “Friend of yours?”
I looked over beside me and there was that person again. A man, oddly dressed all in black, with dark longish hair. He looked really nervous and just stood there.
I stared at him for a moment before saying, “Can I help you?”
Glancing over both shoulders before speaking, he said, “Please forgive my lack of reverence, but it’s imperative we speak immediately. Can you come with me?”
I found myself frowning yet again as I said, “No. I will not come with you! I don’t know you from Adam, bucko. The lady and I haven’t even eaten yet.”
He looked over at Catherine and said, “This woman is unimportant, your highness. Please! For your own safety, I beg you to come with me!” People at nearby tables were starting to look over at us.
“You’re starting to creep me out!” I said seriously. “I suggest you leave before I have you tossed out!” Looking distressed, he turned and left through the front door.
Catherine laughed and said, “What was that about…your highness?”
Frowning, I said, “I have no idea! Maybe he’s another twink boy trying to find Phil.”
A few minutes later, Miguel brought our lunch out. I looked at my watch and hoped we’d have time to eat it before we had to head back.
While I positioned my knife and fork to do battle with my chicken fried steak, Catherine took a bite of her grilled salmon. She closed her eyes and said, “Mmmm! This is wonderful!” I grinned as I thought to myself how much I’d like to hear her say that with me in a broom closet some time.
The chicken fried stead surprised me with how tender it was as I could cut it with my fork. I shoveled a forkful into my mouth, hoping none of the gravy dripped onto my shirt. With the chunk still in my mouth, I said, “Wow. This has to be the best chicken fried steak I ever had!”
I looked over at Catherine and she was staring wide-eyed off to one side of me. I looked over and there, kneeling was the strange guy. He put his hands up in a pleading manner and said, “Please, my princess! The Dark Prince is near!” He lowered his voice as people were staring at us and said, “Prince Andrew has pledged his protection and sent us as emissaries to bring you back before the Dark Prince can enter this realm.” I looked around and there were three others kneeling around the table. “Please my Princess! The Dark Prince can’t be allowed to capture you! If he marries you, we will all be enslaved!”
Catherine laughed and said, “You better go with him, your highness, unless you want to marry the Dark Prince!” She started laughing so hard she had tears running down her cheeks.
“Silence, wench!” shouted one of the other weirdoes surrounding the table. He stood up, pulling a sword from inside his black clothes.
I stood up suddenly, knocking one of the strange people over to the floor. I shouted, “What the fuck is going on here? Can someone call the police?” I saw several people pull out their cell phones as others got up from their tables and started moving away.
All four of the strange men were standing, and all holding swords and glancing around nervously. The one that had talked the most said, “We’re out of time. We were warned that Princess Mary wouldn’t know who she is. Prince Andrew authorized the use of force to bring her back if persuasion failed. Take her.”
Two men grabbed my arms. They were surprisingly strong. I couldn’t break free of their grasp. They started dragging me towards the kitchen door while the other two brandished their swords. Miguel then opened the kitchen door. I thought he might bonk them on the head, but instead said, “Hurry! I can’t hold the gateway open much longer!”
I tried to resist, but they pulled me through the kitchen. I heard Catherine scream from the dining room for someone to stop them.
I was pulled to the backdoor of the kitchen. I could see the alley through the open door. As I was shoved through the door, I shouted, “Let go of me, you fucking…”
“assholes…” My voice trailed away as I found myself standing in soft sunlight, surrounded by trees and standing on green, meadow grass. The greenest grass I’ve ever seen. And my voice sounded odd. A gentle breeze rustled the hair that ran down to the middle of my back. I looked down and I was wearing a lavender and white cotton dress.
“Oh-my-God!” I sighed as I sank to my knees on the soft, green grass. “Where am I? What’s happened to me?” I held up my slender, graceful arms ending in long delicate fingers. I started shaking uncontrollably. A numbness washed over me. There was just no fucking way any of this could be real. Especially being a girl. I felt my chest and under the cool cotton dress were firm round breasts.
This just could not be happening! One moment in a fancy restaurant having lunch with a woman I’ve drooled over in my fantasies and the next I’m female, in a forest surrounded by buff men in armor. I decided I was unconscious because those guys that took me had beat me up or drugged me. I looked around with one hand still on a breast and I just couldn’t believe any of it.
I slid a hand up inside my dress and hesitantly felt my crotch. I almost broke out in tears as I cried, “Oh my God, this can’t be real!”
A stunningly handsome young man walked towards me, his black, polished armor of metal and leather shown brilliantly in the sun. His long dark hair spilled casually over the metal on his shoulders. As he neared me, the men who had taken me, were also now wearing metal and leather armor dropped to their knees and all said, “Your Grace.”
With a gesture he indicated they should stand and he said to them, “I’m not king.” He turned his blue eyes to me and said, “Princess, sticking your hand up your dress and playing with yourself in front of my men is very un-lady-like. And to answer your question Princess Mary, you are home. And safe at the moment.”
“Home? Home? This isn’t home! I live in Plano for chrissakes!”
He walked up to me and extended his hand in an obvious gesture of offering to help me up. As I took his hand he said, “I am Prince Andrew. I swore an oath to the king that I would protect you, his daughter, from the Dark Prince.”
As I stood up, I noticed about twenty men in similar armor with as many horses in what appeared to be a camp site. I said, “My father? You people are insane, or I am! My dad owns a convenience store in Jal, New Mexico.”
Smiling, Prince Andrew said, “The lord of the clerics can explain it to you, but for now, just accept that you are the daughter of a king of one of the Five Kingdoms. My father is the king of one these kingdoms as well.”
I stood there in silence for a moment, staring at this…this Prince Andrew. I glanced around at the group of men standing around staring at me or idly amongst themselves. I said, “Well Prince Andrew, if that is indeed your name, don’t take this personally, but quite frankly, I don’t believe you exist.”
Prince Andrew smiled and said, “If I don’t exist, fair Princess, then to whom are you talking to?”
“Myself!” I yelled. I started pointing at him and others around me. “You and you and you..all of you, are just figments of my imagination. It’s a dream. I can do whatever I want and it doesn’t matter!” I then slapped Prince Andrew, although it wasn’t very hard.
Prince Andrew’s smile faded for a moment, then returned as he caught my arm as I prepared to strike him again. He said, “Please don’t do that. At least not in front of the men.” He then grinned with the whitest teeth I’ve ever seen.
He held my arm in a firm grip. I tried to pull way, but I couldn’t. The pressure on my arm sure felt real enough. But it didn’t matter. This situation was impossible and therefore not real. It violated the laws of physics, the laws of thermodynamics and probably the law west of the Pecos.
Prince Andrew tightened his grip as I struggled to pull away. He said, “I’ll let you go if you promise not to hit me again.” I said nothing and tugged against his grip. “You promise?” I just frowned and grunted. “I don’t have all day. I’ll tie you up if I have to, Princess. Are you going to promise?”
“Okay okay!” I shouted. “I promise!” He didn’t let go. “I promise! I promise! Cross my heart and all that. Just let go please!”
Prince Andrew grinned as he let go of my arm and said, “I was waiting for the magic word.”
I stood there a moment rubbing my arm. I studied Prince Andrew and was taken in by his ruggedly handsome face. I slapped the side of my head, closed my eyes and yelled, “Stop it! Just stop it! I’m not a girl!”
One of the men who had nabbed me stepped up to the prince and said, “My Lord. Are you sure we have the right girl?”
“Higgs Boson, my old friend,” Prince Andrew said as he clasped the other man’s shoulders. “This is just too much for her to understand yet. She’ll come around.”
Prince Andrew looked up at the sun and squinted, then looked around at his men. “We have a long ride ahead of us men. We need to make the city walls before the fall of night. The Dark Prince’s forces may try to ambush us, so stay alert! Mount up! Let’s ride!”
He turned to me and said, “Princess, we do not have a horse for you, so you’ll have to mount up with me. The man he called Higgs led a magnificent white stallion, decked out in armor as well, up to the prince. Higgs then turned and jogged quickly to his own horse.
With a flourish, Prince Andrew gestured toward his horse and said, “My Lady?”
I just looked at the tall, powerful animal and said weakly, “I don’t know how to ride or get on a horse! And I’m wearing a stupid dress!”
The prince sighed and then grabbed me roughly and literally tossed me onto the horse. He then mounted the mighty horse himself.
With the reins he directed the horse in the desired direction and a quick kick in the flanks got the horse moving quickly.
“Sorry, Princess,” said the prince, sounding a bit more serious. “We don’t have time for your fun and games right now. Hang on the best you can!”
We rode in silence for almost half an hour. I watched the countryside glide by at a good clip that covered distance quickly but didn’t tire the animal. I looked all around as we traveled. If this was indeed a dream, an idea I clung to desperately, it was the most detailed and vivid dream I have ever had. Sunlight trickled through the leaves of the trees, animal life was abundant, the clouds beautiful in the sky, the smell of the moist earth kicked up by the horses as they bounded across the tall, green grass.
Breaking the silence, Prince Andrew turned his head back towards me and said, “I was just wondering, Princess Mary, since we’re both a prince or princess, would you mind it if, when we’re alone, I referred to you as simply ‘Mary’? You may call me Andrew.”
“Yeah, sure. Why not?” I said, thinking this was an odd request.
Calling over his shoulder again, the prince said, “Thank you Mary. When almost everyone has a title, it can get a little tedious.”
Something else that was getting tedious was my long hair constantly blowing across my face. I really wished I knew how to make a pony tail. The sun glinting off the prince’s armor was also annoying.
I poked the prince in the back of the neck and said, “You know, I’m going completely on faith that you’re the good guy. You could be taking me to slavery or death. The Dark Prince might not be anything you said he was, but instead he’s some cool dude who actually is the good guy and you’re lying. Look at you. You’re wearing black armor with dark leather.”
Looking over his shoulder, Andrew said, “Do you like it? All the knights are wearing it this season. And I have to admit, I find your lack of faith disturbing. If I wished to kill you, it’d been easy to do so in your own realm.”
“You could be taking me so the king can kill me himself,” I suggested.
“You’re his daughter,” said Andrew without turning his head. “He wants to spoil you, not kill you.”
Before I could answer, one of his men called out and pointed. Looking in the direction indicated, I could see a large group of men on horseback pouring out of the forest and racing across the meadow grass to try to cut us off.
Andrew shouted, “Close in! Protect the princess!” Andrew’s men began to circle Andrew’s horse as they drew their weapons.
There was a sudden, sickening thunk sound as an arrow lodged in the eye of one of Andrew’s men and he tumbled from his horse. From the direction of our attackers, someone shouted, “You idiot! Put the bow away, you might have hit the princess!”
I closed my eyes as swords began to clash and men started to shout and some on both sides began to die. I wasn’t comforted that neither side wanted me hurt. I was horrified by what I saw and felt useless because not only could I not do anything to help, but I would not even be allowed to help. I was to be protected by both sides killing each other. I was the prize, the trophy to the winner. I closed my eyes and cried.
I was suddenly struck on my shoulder hard enough to dislodge me and I fell from the horse to the ground. That horse was tall and the tumble left me dazed. From behind me I heard Andrew shout, “Lance! Protect the princess to your last breath!”
“Yes, my Lord!” someone said over the din of battle. I was grabbed by the arm and led quickly from the fray. “Stay behind me, Princess. I will defend you for as long as I can!”
I was glad for his protection, but I was dismayed beyond belief that this handsome young man, in the flower of his youth, would gladly…gladly! lay down his life for me.
Two men wearing tunics of a different color than Andrew’s men ran towards Lance who stood ready with his weapon. They both lunged at him and to my utter amazement, with one movement with his sword, he parried the thrust of the first man who stumbled on the uneven ground, and as Lance brought his sword back, severed the other man’s arm at the elbow causing his weapon to drop to the ground and the man screamed in pain. The first man recovered from his stumble and turned only to find his head removed from his shoulders by another mighty swing of Lance’s sword. Lance’s once shining armor was smeared with dirt and blood.
When I looked back at the fracas, I screamed when I saw Andrew stuck across the side of his head with the broadside of a sword wielded by a huge knight. Andrew fell to the ground unconscious. I started to run towards him but Lance held out his arm and shouted, “No, my Lady!”
It was suddenly eerily quiet except for the groans from the wounded and dying. The large knight that stuck down Andrew dismounted his giant, black horse. He wore a helmet so I couldn’t see his face, just piercing eyes from the slits in the helmet. His armor was deep black as was the tunic he wore.
Lance drew in a gasp and he said, “It’s the Dark Knight my Lady. The Dark Prince’s personal body guard. Forgive me Princess as I cannot defeat the Dark Knight. But I’m pledged to defend you to my dying breath.” He raised his sword and took a defiant stance.
The huge knight stopped a few paces away from Lance. He held his sword loose at his side. He then said, “Yield, knight. There is no reason for you to die this day. Hand me the girl.”
Lance didn’t flinch and said, “I will die first!”
Raising his sword the Dark Knight said, “So be it!” He lunged towards Lance and swung his sword so viciously, it would have split Lance in two if it had connected.
Seeing an opening, Lance thrust his sword into the Dark Knight’s side, piercing the armor causing the Dark Knight to growl in pain.
Lance pulled his sword back, tipped with blood. The Dark Knight swung another vicious blow at Lance’s head. Lance ducked and thrust his sword into the Dark Knight’s armpit. The Dark Knight howled and raised his sword high. Lance raised his sword to block the blow, when the Dark Knight brought his gauntlet covered fist down to the side of Lance’s head, catching him off-guard. Lance tumbled to the ground, landing on his back.
Before he could regain his feet, the Dark Knight planted the tip of his sword against Lance’s breast plate. “And now you die.”
I ran towards the Dark Knight screaming, “Noooo!! Don’t kill him, please!”
The Dark Knight looked up, startled by my rush towards him. Lance shouted, “Stay back, Princess!”
I fell to my knees next to Lance and cried, “Please don’t kill him!”
The Dark Knight turned his mighty frame towards me and he straightened up. He said in a deep baritone, “Is that my Lady’s wish?”
“Yes!” I shouted. The thought of all these men on both sides dying for me made me ill. I don’t know any of them. Like I told Andrew, I have no idea who I can really trust.
“Very well, my Lady.” The Dark Knight pulled his sword up, turned it around and then with the hilt of the sword, struck Lance hard in the head, knocking him unconscious. The Dark Knight then looked around the meadow now peaceful. Some horses had run off, some just stood around. There were at least a dozen men on the ground. The Dark Knight said, “Mount up. We don’t have time to dispatch the remainder of King Williams’ men. It will be night soon.”
Smiling, I said as I started to slowly back away, “Well, I guess I’ll just mosey on back home. Hey, we’ll do lunch.”
The Dark Knight reached out and roughly grabbed my arm. He said, “You’re going to the Dark Prince.” He then picked me up as if I weighed nothing and threw me onto the back of his horse. He then shouted to his remaining men, “To the castle! All hail the Prince!”
As the Dark Knight mounted his fiery black horse, I said, “Please let me go! That is your Lady’s wish.”
Without turning his head, the Dark Knight said, “My Lady has used up all her wishes.” He then kicked his horse in the flanks and we lurched forward.
We rode furiously through forests and meadows. I considered a few times jumping off the horse, but there were the Dark Prince’s men behind the Dark Knight’s horse, and also his horse was quite tall. I was sure I’d break something if I jumped off at full gallop.
And then there was the question of where I would go.
The sun had set and the gathering dusk was darkening the forest quickly. We were following a road now. The men on the horses kept glancing all around them. We then entered a clearing and crossed a wooden bridge, the horses hooves thundering as we crossed.
Before us, silhouetted against the fading light was large stone wall. A castle stood out on top of a large hill inside the wall.
From the wall, I heard a cry, “Open the gates!”
The portcullis was still sliding up as we passed through the gateway of the wall. The horses then pounded through the city streets heading for the castle at the city center. I glanced at the people in the streets as we passed. Their clothes were dull, patched and ragged. They looked haggard and dirty. There was no one hawking their wares at the empty shops and stores that lined the main street. I saw no children and what dogs there were barked at us.
There was an inner wall surrounding the castle and another shout to open the gates. The sky above was now black and brilliant with stars. Torches lit the way through the gateway to the castle. Inside the wall, were soldiers wearing round helmets and chainmail armor. The castle walls were ringed with torches.
With a hand single, the Dark Knight brought his band of men to a halt and the men began to dismount. Being more gentle than I thought he was capable, the Dark Knight lifted me from his horse. I looked around and all the horses we covered with white foam.
One horse, before the rider could dismount, collapsed. We had never stopped once for a break since my capture.
There was a boy, about twelve and cleaner than the people I’d seen in the city came running up to the Dark Knight. “See to the horses!” the Dark Knight barked at the boy.
The Dark Knight took my arm firmly, but thankfully not with crushing pressure and led me to the castle door. Two soldiers opened the door as we approached. Both of them dipped their pikes and said, “M’Lady,” as we walked through the door.
We then entered a great hall, splendid in its décor with brilliant wall hangings and paintings of, well, naked women dotting the walls. There were four long tables that were covered with white cloths with large candles placed every few feet along their great length. Four massive chandeliers hung from the ceiling.
“We wait here,” the Dark Knight said in a gruff voice. “You will show respect when the Dark Prince arrives.”
“You mean, don’t give him the finger or something?” I asked, pissed off to be held a prisoner as some stupid princess when I should be at home with a beer and a football game.
Turning his massive head towards me, he said with irritation, “Don’t you know how to curtsy, woman?”
“And shouldn’t you refer to me as ‘My Lady’, you giant oaf!” I said, deciding to play the princess card.
“My apologies…my Lady.” the Dark Knight said.
A figure escorted by four soldiers entered the hall from the other end. He was dressed beautifully in a striking black uniform with gold trim with a small tunic of the same colors the Dark Knight’s men wore. I was expecting a monster, but the Dark Prince was quite handsome, almost boyish in his good looks. It was obvious there was a good build under his clothes.
I was dismayed to discover that I was curious about how he looked under his clothes. I had to fight my own femininity or otherwise I was sure I’d be lost.
The Dark Knight removed his helmet. He had to let go of me for a moment, then as he kneeled and placed his helmet under his other arm, he took hold of my arm again.
The Dark Knight bowed his head and said, “My Lord.”
In a clear tenor voice, the Dark Prince said, “You may rise, Sir Percy. And you may release the princess. She is our honored guest, not our prisoner.”
Sir Percy released my arm as he stood. While not exactly handsome, his face had a ruggedness that was not unattractive. He hadn’t shaven in a couple of days, and several battle scars gave his face character. He inclined his head at me a couple of times in an obvious gesture that I should do something.
I finally remembered and tugged the sides of my skirts out slightly and did my best to try a curtsy the way I’d seen it done in movies. I bowed my head and said, “My Lord.”
He inclined his head at me and said, “You may call me John, Princess Mary. Since we are to be wed soon, we might as well dispense with the formalities.”
My eyes widened and in a shocked voice I said, “Married!? I…I…hey, I don’t even kiss on the first date! What do you mean married?”
Obviously amused, John smiled at me and said, “Yes. The sooner we are wed, the sooner we can combine the five kingdoms. My three and your father’s two. I will become king of the realm, with you as my queen at my side. There will finally be peace and harmony in the realm. I have really grown tired of your father’s unwarranted attacks on my kingdom.”
Stammering, I said, “Look. I just got here. I don’t know anything about your little wars. I’ve never met this father guy and from what I’ve heard about you, even if I was into dudes, I wouldn’t marry you. I just want to go home.”
John took a step towards me and gently took my hands in his and looked deep into my eyes. He said, “I know you haven’t had time to adjust. I know you don’t think you’re a woman, but the point is, even in your own realm, you’ve always been female. You just weren’t aware of it.”
I tried to pull my hands away, but couldn’t. I said, “You’re out of your ever lovin’ mind, Prince. Back home I’m definitely not a woman! I want to go back to my, um, realm.”
Frowning, Prince John said, “Princess…Mary, you have within you the power to unite this realm in peace. That’s why you were brought here. The clerics in both kingdoms said it was time for your arrival. When you marry me, and I ascend to the throne of the three kingdoms of the South, your father’s kingdoms of the North will then join us as he cannot attack his daughter. You have the power to save tens of thousands of lives.”
Not consciously aware of it, I placed my hands on my hips in a feminine gesture of defiance and said, “Look, bucko, I don’t believe any of this is real. I don’t believe in magic, and I don’t believe I can just suddenly become a woman with a father I’ve never met. And I certainly don’t believe in you!”
John let go of my hands and said, “Well, we’ll see about that. I was told there would be an adjustment period. Maybe we’ll delay the wedding one more day. Sir Percy, take the Princess to her quarters and then come to the council chamber.”
Sir Percy, a.k.a. the Dark Knight bowed his head and said, “Yes my Lord. Please come with me, my Lady.”
John spun on his heel and tried hard to not show his irritation as he walked away.
Extending his arm in a gesture to follow him, Sir Percy said, “My Lady?”
Knowing there was no escape at the moment, I followed him as he led me from the great hall. I looked down at the stone flagging and smiled slightly. I said, “Percy!” and giggled.
The Dark Knight looked down at me and said sternly, “Silence! …my Lady.”
I looked over at Sir Percy and noticed he was still bleeding from the cuts from Lance’s sword. I said, “You’re bleeding, Sir Knight.”
He replied, “Tis but a flesh wound, my Lady.”
We exited the hall and walked for a short distance down a hallway decorated with cloth wall hangings and ornate oil lamps. At one end was a simple wooden door with a guard standing on either side. The guards snapped smartly to attention as we approached. The Dark Knight pulled out a key, unlocked the door and opened it. I followed him inside.
While better than Motel 6, it was smaller than what I thought a princess would expect. There was a canopy bed, with a pink canopy with lace trim. There was also a small vanity with combs and brushes and what I guessed passed as cosmetics in this place. There was a jewelry box with actual jewels in it and a closet full of dresses.
“This is your chamber, m’Lady. I trust you’ll find it comfortable.” Sir Percy said as he waved his arm around the room. “It is adjacent to the Dark Prince’s chambers. Should you have a need of anything, just ask one of the guards outside the door. You have a chamber pot under the bed.”
“Thanks, I was kinda wondering about that,” I said sheepishly. “I’m very tired, so I may just go to bed.”
Sir Percy nodded and said, “It has been a long day for you, m’Lady. And it is quite late. I bid you good slumber, m’Lady.” He bowed and then let himself out.
I felt the bed and it was very soft. The room, while spartan, was decorated with an obvious feminine hand. I looked in the closet and for the life of me, I couldn’t suppress the thrill I felt at running my fingers across all the pretty dresses. Across from the bed, was a dresser with underwear and other items I hoped I wouldn’t have to wear. On top of the dresser was a pitcher of water and several glasses. I decided I was parched and poured a glass, then another and another.
I looked at the glass and suddenly remembered the Dark Knight said my room was adjacent to John’s chamber. I had an inspired thought that maybe I could place the glass against the stones and my ear inside the glass and maybe I could hear something. I put the glass against the stone, then my head against the glass and listened with all my might.
At first, all I could hear was the air moving through the glass. I changed position and then, very faintly, I could hear John saying, “…don’t have the talisman? Did I not tell you to either destroy it or bring it to me?”
Sir Percy said, “I’m sorry m’Lord. But by the time we had secured the girl, we had almost no time to make it back to the castle before dark. We didn’t have time to search for it.”
“Damn!” cursed John. “We’ll just have to make do without it. Tomorrow afternoon, have all my generals meet me here for a war council. Everything needs to be planned to the last detail. I want no mistakes when the armies of the Northern kingdoms meet here to witness my wedding to their princess. After they have laid down their weapons and sworn their fealty to me, we attack. I want the heads of the Northern kings brought to me on sticks!” There was some muffled sounds that I couldn’t make out, then John shouts, “I will not tolerate failure! Not even from you, my trusted friend.”
Sir Percy said, “There will be no failure, m’Lord. The generals will be here as they are anxious to finally be rid of the Northern kingdoms. But what of the girl, m’Lord? She will not be happy to see her father’s head on a stick.”
John said, “Pfft. Who cares? By the wedding day, she will be believing she’s always been here and as a girl. And of her opinion? It doesn’t matter. I will probably have her tongue cut out. I do hate to hear women prattle so. And then she’ll just be spitting out little prince’s for as long as she amuses me.”
I dropped the glass and it shattered against the floor. I backed away from the wall and shook. Cold sweat trickled down my back. Oh my God! I thought. Father and Andrew will be killed. And all because of me. More people dying because of me! There was no escape for me to warn them. Once again, I was totally useless.
I tossed myself onto the bed and cried myself to sleep.
“You haven’t said a word all day, my Lady,” said John as he waved a pheasant around the air on his fork. “Are you feeling well? Do you not like your pheasant? I will have the chef beheaded if he has displeased you.”
I looked at John, horrified. I almost shouted, “No! The pheasant is wonderful. Give the chef my compliments. I mean, this lunch beats the chicken fried steak I was having just yesterday. No, this is still all just too much for me.”
John flashed an insincere smile and said, “Well, I certainly hope you’re feeling better tomorrow on our wedding day. Getting married is the height of women’s lives, isn’t it?”
Wanting to be anywhere but here, which was John’s council chamber, today serving as a lunch room, I said, “Well, I guess it’s a big day. I think my mom was more thrilled to win a weekend trip to Las Vegas from that radio station…”
John waved his hand and said, “Yes, that’s all very amusing, isn’t it?” A riff of laughter circled the table.
There were five men other than John and Sir Percy. They all seemed to be high up in the military. They were probably the generals who were going to be planning the murder of Andrew and the father I never met. If I could just get my hands on a machine gun, I could stop this plot. But sadly, all I had on was my pink satin dress with the white lace details and piping.
I tilted back my head to get the last drop of wine from my goblet when some movement in the high ceiling caught my eye. I tried not to look directly so no one else would think of following my gaze, but I could see someone or a group of someones removing a pane of glass from the skylight and lowering a thick rope down onto the chandelier.
John turned to me and said, “If you are finished with your meal, my love, I need you to go back to your chamber until I summon you. These men and I have much to discuss that would be too much for your pretty little head to understand.”
“Yes, my Lord,” I said as I almost rolled my eyes at John. As I started to stand, a young boy, a page came running in breathlessly.
Kneeling and bowing, he said, “I’m sorry to interrupt, my Lord, but the south wall has come under attack.”
All the men suddenly stood up, their eyes flashing. John grabbed the boy by his shoulders and lifted him to his feet. I could see that the boy was terrified. John shouted, “Are you sure? Who told you? Don’t lie to me, boy!”
“The corporal of the Guard!” said the page just as trumpets began blaring from outside.
At that very moment, a figure arched in, swinging on the rope suspended from the giant chandelier. The figure slammed his boot heels straight into the side of Sir Percy’s head and sent him flying to the floor unconscious. The figure then landed his feet on the floor. It was Andrew!
Andrew handed me the rope and said, “Hold on to this, please,” as he drew his sword. One of the generals who had kept his wits about him, lunged at Andrew in a brutal attack. Andrew parried and landed a blow to the general’s thigh and he collapsed with a shout of pain to the stone flagging.
John, looking confused said, “Gentlemen! You can’t fight in here! This is the war council!”
Recovering his composure, Sir Percy flung himself to his feet, drawing his sword. With a primal yell, he lifted his sword over his head and plunged headlong towards Andrew.
“Andrew! Look out!” I shouted.
Prince Andrew spun and his sword clashed with Sir Percy’s heavy broadsword. They thrust and parried for several moments, neither one getting the advantage. Then Sir Percy slipped on wine spilled on the stones and he fell flat on his back, his sword falling from his grip and clattering on the stones. Andrew leapt to the big man’s chest and pushed the point of his sword to Sir Percy’s throat.
“No!” I shouted. “Please don’t kill him! He’s a good man.”
Andrew started to push the point downward and Sir Percy said, “I yield.”
Andrew smiled and jumped back to my side. He quickly wrapped the rope around both our waists and gave it a tug. Several of the generals ran towards us with swords drawn. Before they could close on us, we were lifted into the air.
From the chandelier, Andrew shouted down, “As a wise man once said, ‘he who fights and runs away, lives to fight another day!’” He then lifted me into the arms of a waiting man who I recognized as Higgs Boson, who pulled me up onto the roof.
Just before he climbed onto the roof with us, Andrew smashed the chain holding the chandelier to the ceiling and sent it crashing to the floor below. Higgs picked me up and carried me across the roof top and down to a runway where several others were waiting. One was a woman.
Andrew dropped to the walkway with us and slapped Higgs on the back and said, “Good job Higgs!” He looked around at the other faces and said, “Lance! Do you have the wench?”
“Yes, my Lord!” said Lance. “And as you ordered, your horse is in the woods just beyond the north wall.”
“Lance! I’m glad you’re alive!” I shouted.
Lance smiled and said, “Me too, my Lady.”
Andrew said, “Princess! Quickly, you and the wench change clothes.”
“But there’s men around,” I protested.
Looking angry, Andrew shouted, “Now! We don’t have time for your modesty!”
The other girl was red-faced as she pulled off her clothes. I also felt discomfort in disrobing in front of so many men. The girl took my clothes and began to put them on. She kept stopping to feel the fine silk of the dress. Her clothes on the other hand were smelly and amounted to not much more than a lace up burlap sack.
Andrew said, “Higgs, give me a few minutes for me to make my way to the edge of the north wall with the princess. Then withdraw the soldiers. Lance, you must make sure they see you ride away with the girl. As soon as you cross the bridge, set fire to it. It will hold long enough for all our men to cross. Since it’s closer, the Dark Prince’s men will try to cross at the southern bridge, which you burned just before the attack.”
Lance said, “The north bridge will still be intact, my Lord.”
Andrew shrugged and said, “We don’t have enough men to hold the Dark Prince at the river. We must ride hard to make it to the Northern kingdom before night fall. Good luck, men.” The men clasped hands and then we quickly went our separate ways.
Sticking to rooftops on the far side of the castle, Andrew led me towards the north end of the castle. As he had guessed, most of John’s army was focusing on the southern wall where the attack was taking place. We finally had to drop down to ground level. Since I was dressed as a peasant and Andrew was not wearing his armor, no one really paid us any attention as we ran along near the wall.
We finally came upon a small gate that exited to the main city. The grate was closed with two guards manning their posts. One of them spotted us and said, “You there. Stay clear of the gate!”
Andrew smiled and said, “Oh, but I have to get through.” He drew his sword. The guard pulled his, but before he could react, Andrew smashed the broad side of his sword against the guard’s head. He did the same with the second guard.
Andrew then pointed to a ladder and said, “Climb up the wall, Mary.”
When we both got onto the top of the wall, Andrew tied a length of rope to a stanchion on the platform along the top of the wall and tossed the loose end to the ground. Andrew said, “Climb down the rope, Princess, hurry.”
“I don’t know how to climb down a rope!” I protested.
Under his breath, Andrew said, “Women! Sheesh.” He then grabbed me roughly around the waist and wrapping his legs around the rope, he lowered us to the ground.
Our run to the north gate was mostly uneventful. We stuck to back alleys and empty shops. No one challenged us. But then, me in my potato sack hardly looked threatening.
When we made it to the north wall, it was quiet. There was no gate here and no people. From the dirt, debris and just plain trash, it didn’t look like this area was visited very often.
Andrew said, “We’re going to do the same thing we did at the castle. We’re going to climb that ladder up the wall and then slide down a rope to the ground on the other side. It’s just a longer drop.”
I gave him a look and he said, “Yes, I will carry you down.” He looked serious for a moment and said, “Don’t forget, Princess. Many fine men are dying at this very moment just so you can worry about climbing down an icky rope. Does it ever bother you princesses that men lay down their lives in your protection? Or do you just feel entitled?”
This didn’t seem like the right time for this discussion and I said, “Look, bucko. I was enjoying the best chicken fried steak I’d ever had in my life when your boys whisked me away to Fantasy Land. I never asked to be here! It’s not my fault I’m a fifteen year old princess. Besides, I couldn’t ever climb a rope in P.E. class, either.”
“I’m very sorry my Lady,” said Andrew. “My frustration is misplaced. I... And only I, am completely responsible for your safety. My only reason to exist, is to protect you. Please climb the ladder my Lady. We’re running out of time.”
When we climbed to the top of the wall, I asked, “Won’t there be guards at the bridge?”
Andrew shook his head and said, “Not if Lance did his job.”
I looked at Andrew as he worked with tying one end of the rope to a beam of wood. I said, “You’re jealous. That’s it, isn’t it? You’re jealous of Lance because I like him, aren’t you?”
Huffing with the rope, Andrew said, “I don’t know what you’re talking about. We can’t waste time.”
“You think I want to be with Lance, don’t you?”
“That would be rather silly, wouldn’t it, since only I could make you a queen.” Andrew pulled on the rope to ensure it was tied good and tight.
“You have to admit he’s very handsome. And closer to my age.” I said.
Sounding very irritated, Andrew said, “Will you please stop prattling on about this nonsense? We have to get down this rope before we’re spotted.”
“He saved my life you know. From the Dark Knight.” I said, looking over the wall to the ground far below. “And you didn’t that day.”
Andrew tossed the free end of the rope over the side of the wall. He said, “I was unconscious and Lance didn’t save your life since the Dark Prince wanted you brought back alive. In case you didn’t notice, I did manage to save you today. But if you insist on blabbering about your taste in men, we might both be killed and all this would have been a huge waste of time. Shall we go, my Lady?”
I smiled at him, amused, as Andrew picked me up and slid himself over the wall. I said, “Of the two of you, Lance is the cutest.”
Without looking at me, Andrew said, “I’m about to drop you.”
I remained silent as we continued to the ground. Without waiting to see if I was following, Andrew sprinted away from the wall toward an outgrowth of trees. Hidden from view by tall brush stood Andrew’s white stallion. As soon as I walked up behind him, Andrew just lifted me up and set me down on his horse.
As the Prince kicked his stallion in the flanks to get him moving, I asked, “Are you angry with me?” The only answer I got was silence.
It was only a short distance to the bridge. Lance’s handiwork was evident by four dead guards lying on the ground. I sighed. I wondered if I should even care that all these deaths, on both sides, were on my behalf, or should I absolve myself of any guilt because I never asked for any of this, that it had all been imposed upon me?
Andrew’s stallion broke into full gallop as we crossed the bridge. We had a long ways to go and a short time to get there.
We rode in silence, me clinging to Andrew’s belt as his horse bounded over the landscape. I watched this world go by as we rode hard to the north. I had to admit that it was beautiful here. The forests, the rolling meadows, the mountains rising in the distance, there were plants and hills and rocks and things. I tried to remember my home town of Plano Texas and couldn’t. I could only remember Fry’s Electonics.
After riding hard for what seemed hours, Andrew slowed his horse and we stopped in the shade of a grove of huge trees near a babbling brook. Andrew said, “We’ll rest here.” He then dismounted and walked over to the brook.
I sat on the horse for a minute and just watched him. It was as if I was seeing him with new eyes. He’s a large framed man, handsome and his wind tousled hair gave him a devil-may-care attitude. You could sense his physical power and I knew his prowess on the field of combat. Just being near him you felt protected. You instinctively knew he’d be a great provider for you and your children. I could feel myself being drawn to him. Andrew was what every man should be. I slid off the horse and walked over to where he was drinking from the clear water of the brook.
I knelt next to him and cupped my hands into the swiftly moving water to get a drink. We both sat by the brook in silence while we drank. The day was warmer than I had noticed while riding. The slight breeze through the grove of shady trees felt cool.
I turned to look at Andrew and said in a soft voice, “Thank you, Andrew. I know your mission was to save the Northern kingdoms from the hell of the Dark Prince. But I thank you for saving me from marrying him and living in my own personal hell. I can never repay you.”
Andrew looked up directly at me and laughed. “You don’t have to repay me, Princess. As you said, I was just doing my job, to protect the realm from evil. When we return to the lands of the Northern kingdoms, I’ll make sure you’re re-united with Lance. He’s a good man and a brave warrior.”
Looking straight into Andrew’s eyes I said, “Lance is a boy.”
Andrew looked away for a moment and grunted a short laugh. He looked back and me and ran his fingers through my long hair. He said, “You are very beautiful my Lady. Yours is the face that a thousand men would die for, that rare beauty that is more precious than any jewel or gold. I would gladly die for you, Princess.”
The touch of his hand on my cheek and through my hair sent chills down my spine. I’ve never experienced the emotions flowing through my body before. I said, “Don’t die for me, Andrew. Live for me.”
He stared into my eyes for a few seconds, and then with his hand at the back of my head, he drew my face to his. I parted my lips and closed my eyes and a moment later, I felt his lips press against mine. A wave of emotion engulfed me and a hunger rose inside me. Andrew pressed against me and I fell to my back while he rolled on top of me, smothering me with his passionate kisses.
The burlap sack I was wearing suddenly fell away and I felt my breasts being squeezed and kneaded. He pulled away from my lips to suck on my hardening nipples. The crescendo of passion welling up inside me, made me feel I was about to explode. As his lips returned to mine, I felt his fingers massaging me between my legs as I grew warm and moist there. My breathing became labored and I was so overcome by passion that I was running only on animal instincts.
With a cry of mixed pain and pleasure, I felt Andrew slide inside me, taking my virginity. Taking by force of pleasure what I willingly gave to him. Grunting and squealing with pleasure at each powerful thrust, I could hold back no longer and an aching burst of pleasure overwhelmed me. As I tightened around his swollen member, Andrew with a hard final thrust released his seed deep inside of me.
Staying inside me and gulping for air and covered in sweat, Andrew collapsed on top me and we both lay there, gulping for air, enveloped in a haze of passion. I have never felt this way before. Even when I had been intimate with a woman, it had been nothing like this. This was a full body experience that brought me to a level of joy I have never known before.
Finally our breathing began to return to normal and Andrew rolled off me. He brushed the hair out of my eyes and stared at me for the longest time. He gave me a long, soft kiss, so soft it betrayed the passion behind it.
He smiled at me and said, “You’re gorgeous, Mary. I…” He stopped suddenly and frowned. He turned around and squinted into the distance. “Damn! I have failed you, Princess.” He jumped to his feet. Nude, I rise slowly and stand next to him.
“What is it, my love?” I asked still dreamy.
“See along that tree line?” Andrew asked while pointing to the other side of the rolling meadow. “Riders! From the Dark Prince! We stayed in one place too long. They spotted my horse.”
I grabbed his arm and said, “Andrew! What are we going to do?”
Andrew pulled his pants up and disengaged my grip. He walked over to his horse and opened a saddle bag. From it, he removed a palm sized metallic disc with a dark blue crystal set in the center. He walked back towards me while sliding his fingers along the strange glyphs on the disc.
“I have no choice, my Lady.” Andrew said solemnly while studying the disc. “I must send you back to your realm. It’s the only way to keep you safe.”
“My Lord, no!” I cried. “Andrew, I…I…I love you! I don’t even remember my ‘realm’. I can’t leave you!”
Andrew ran his fingers through my hair again, brushing his knuckles softly against my cheek. “Mary, nothing in this world pains me more than sending you away. Alone, I can’t defeat twenty knights on horseback. My only choice is to put you someplace safe. They will be upon us in a minute.”
“Come with me, my love! Let us be safe together!” I begged.
“That would not be possible, Princess. You are a man in your realm. And I have my realm to protect. You must go. Now!”
“Andrew! Please no!” I cried.
“I love you, Mary…”
“Ungh!” I shouted as I hit my head on the pavement of the alley behind the restaurant. Catherine, along with a few other people came running out of the kitchen door towards me.
“Kyle!” Catherine shouted. “Kyle! Are you okay?” She knelt beside me as I slowly sat up and rubbed my head.
“Andrew?” I asked as my vision started to refocus.
Catherine helped me sit up and said, “Who’s Andrew? And where are those strange men who tried to kidnap you?”
I sat there for a few moments, rubbing my head and feeling the pebbles from the asphalt underneath me. “Where am I?”
From beside me, I heard someone ask, “Dude, you need an ambulance? Are you okay?”
I waved him off and said, “I’m okay. I can stand. I’m okay, really.”
Catherine balanced me as I stood up. I said, “Is my chicken fried steak still there?”
Giving me a strange look, Catherine said, “Why wouldn’t it be? It’s been less than a minute since you were dragged out here.”
I looked around at the now unfamiliar buildings and I could see a portion of a water tower with the Plano “P” on the side. I said, “Good. I’m starved.”
I couldn’t sleep. I looked at the alarm clock and it was half past three in the morning.. I looked over at Catherine, sound asleep in my bed. I smiled at her. It’s been almost six months since the “incident” as we’ve come to call it. I was still unnerved by it.
I got visits by the police for a few days before they lost interest. There were no leads and no motive and nobody else had a similar experience. The police decided it was just kids pranking me for who knows what reason. Two good things came out of the incident though. Catherine and I started seeing each other more, and I got a coupon for a free lunch at the restaurant.
I never told Catherine about the “dreams” I had during that moment of unconsciousness. Most of the dreams had faded, at least the details. The only explanation was that my whole experience was just a dream. Nothing else made sense. The lasting, most haunting part of the dream, the one that irked me the most was of me having sex with a man. What would cause a dream like that? A bad chicken fried steak?
Just as I was about to drift off to sleep, I thought I detected a shadow from the light sifting in from the curtains. I didn’t think anything about it, being in that transition between being awake and asleep. And then I heard breathing beside me! I froze. I was afraid to open my eyes.
“At last, I have found you!” grumbled the voice of the Dark Knight coming from beside my bed. With a start, I tossed the covers from me and bolted up right. Sweat started to crawl down my back as I saw the silhouette of the mighty frame of the Dark Knight.
“Sir Percy!” I breathed. “Why are you here?”
“Stand,” was all he said.
Slowly, I stepped out of bed and stood before the Dark Knight. I was scared out of my mind. “Why are you here? Please don’t take me back to the Dark Prince! I’d rather you strike me down now than return me to that monster!”
“Is that my Lady’s wish?” asked the Dark Knight.
“My wish is that you’d go away and leave me alone!” I shouted. Catherine made a stirring sound.
“I’m afraid my Lady has run out of wishes,” said a voice from behind Sir Percy.
Stepping out from the shadows stood Andrew.
“Andrew!” I shouted as I jumped at him, kissing him deeply.
Andrew pushed me away as he spat on the floor. “My Lady, please! You are still a man!” For the first time ever, I heard Sir Percy chuckle.
Laughing, I said, “I’m so very sorry, Andrew. I’m just excited to see you.”
Smiling, Andrew said, “I’m glad you are. Mary. I have come back for you.”
“Come back for me?” I glanced over at Catherine, sleeping soundly. “I…I actually have a life here now, Andrew. Your realm is as beautiful as it is dangerous. But this really is where I was born. I have a girlfriend and I just got a promotion at work…I…”
“Mary,” said the prince. “Look around you. Is this really what you want? Is she really what you want? We have pushed the Dark Prince back to just one of the Southern kingdoms. We have liberated two of them so far. And tall, dark and gruesome there works for me now.” He got down on one knee and said, “Please, Mary. Come back with me and fulfill your destiny. Mary, be my queen.”
Smiling I asked, “Is that a proposal?”
With a scowl, Sir Percy said, “Are you deaf, woman?”
I just stood there for a moment. I looked over at Catherine. Poor girl what will she think if I’m suddenly gone? On further thought, I really think I was more of a project for her rather than a lover. And my promotion…whoopee…I’m now senior programmer with ten other senior programmers.
I smiled and said, “Yes, I’ll go back with you, my love. But with one condition.”
Andrew stepped up directly in front of me and said, “Anything, my love.”
I said, “Make the royal chef learn how to make chicken fried steak.”
Andrew smiled and said, “Deal!”
And there in the shade of a large, full tree, standing on the green meadow grass and wearing a silken dress, I put my arms around the man I loved and kissed him with all my heart.
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